I almost forgot to remember it was the 5th of November.

Waking up, groggily, in the office I took over from my predecessor, I had no idea what time it was, let alone the day. I’d worked long into the night, then into the still-dark morning going over resumes from potential staffers and my first interview was going to be today, whatever day today actually turned out to be. My phone claimed it was now 8:25 PM, the 5th of November.

I remembered!

I had to feed the neighbor’s cats!

Here’s the deal. My New York office isn’t a storefront, it’s a ground floor suite in an old apartment building, the kind used typically by eye doctors or orthodontists. Nate officed here for about twenty-five years and the rent, despite yearly increases, is pretty cheap, so I decided to keep it.

But keeping it meant I’d have neighbors. Like, regular neighbors. People with kids, old ladies. Not bad for a representative, really, keeps you in touch with the needs of your constituents. But it comes with its own, er, smells.

Like the full nasal smack of cat shit when I opened Jesse’s door.

Nobody was dead or anything and the place had been recently cleaned, but one of Jesse’s cats won’t use the box after the other has, preferring instead to grace the floor.

It’s the bathroom floor, naturally. He’s no animal.

Still, the olfactory assault can be intense.

First time I encountered this, I went out and bought Jess a second shit pan and a bag of pussy dust, but his bathroom’s so tiny, there’s no room for two boxes and he found himself stepping into one when he went to piss in the night. My solution would have been to piss in the box and quickly return to sleep, but his was to remove one of the boxes and clean the misplaced shit.

Except when he’s out of town.

Which is when I have to do it.

Christ, I didn’t think that fecal smell would ever leave my nostrils, but the across-the-hall neighbor was making pot roast and pot roast apparently trumps cat shit in the game of nose (one of many ways nature, majestic in its compensatory mystery, protects apartment dwellers). My office greeter/filing person/phone answer possibility was coming at 9:45, a time arranged to accommodate her present job, so when I returned to the office, I opened a window to clear out the slept here smell.

And then I remembered why I REALLY had to remember that it was the 5th of November.

It was election day.

The polls closed at 9.

And though I wasn’t running for anything and the municipal offices were faits accomplis, it wouldn’t do for a sitting (sleeping?) congressman not to vote.

I knocked on pot roast’s door (we’d not met yet), asked the lady to let the applicant in, stuck a note on the front door saying ring pot roast’s buzzer, left a note on my desk saying I’d be back and I was off!.

Right after wolfing down some neighborly pot roast.


Strolling through the ‘hood toward voting, hence destiny, I’m fascinated by the colors of the autumn leaves ‘neath the shifting red and green of traffic’s early lights. Again and again, green turned red by way of yellow, and I felt a musical pulsing, within or without, I was not sure. Could be the pulse came direct from the lights, whose changes synchronized with, maybe, every twelfth beat. New lights on different corners, I moved, semi-exorably, toward the schoolhouse, as pulsing throbbed frontside my brain ‘til I’m in one spot on one corner counting beats between changes, then beats, then beats, then changes, then beats, then changes again.

I was outside Tish James’ victory party. It wasn’t magic or anything, her base was nearby. I wanted to go in and be a laugher too, but those victory beats were premature.

Mere minutes ‘til the election was over, I still had not elected.

I re-hustled my ass and cast the last vote of the night.

In a schoolroom world, with my one vote, I had changed everything.

In reality, I had changed nothing.

But I’d done the right thing. I must have.

On my sweater, a sticker stuck by an elderly poll woman read, “I Voted.”

There was a flag on it. That has to mean something.

I don’t mean to be a naysayer when it comes to the importance of voting. It’s just the whole experience was disappointing this time around.

Not because it was brief. Some of my best moments have been brief. But see, they used the old lever machines the last two elections, the type you find in news photographs from the ’50s; big, metal, Marvel villain-shaped behemoths that don’t look complete without iconic political figures emerging, smiling, after voting (presumably for themselves). Soviet-looking, oversized, brute force mechanisms that were reintroduced, despite being illegal, for vague logistical reasons back in September (for the primary) and October (for the run-off).

Now, it’s November and my polling place, the same one as last month and the month before, greeted me and co-voters with tiny, low-tech podia on which we marked paper ballots we were forced to carry by hand to a scanner that absorbed our decisions and, at nearly one-eighth light speed, tossed them in the direction of Voter Central, where they take permanent residence in the “Brain of Democracy,” which floats in unspecified solution there.

Not nearly as cool as the old machines, know what I’m sayin’?

I maintain a deep, emotional entwinement, not just with election night itself, but with those big Brooklyn ballot boxes of bygone boyhood days. I stood inside them when I was not more than 6 inches high, 3 long months ago (I thought I’d get to the short joke before you did), perched atop the palms of my father’s stubby Jew-hands, helping him to change the face of American democracy, not to mention his fate as foot soldier in the army of the municipal state.

And when I was not yet old enough to drive (as opposed to now, when I am merely uncredentialed), I, with my cousin, traveled to the repositories of these bombastic boxes as the doors to polling places closed, watching the tin machines pried open, their tallies pouring like milk into the consciousness of freedom.

My cousin and I were not alone in these counting houses, having traveled with a local representative we worked for as lads, a man who, though just a few years earlier a challenger to the status quid, was, by this night, a genuine pro quo, running so unopposed that he could illegally take underage lads into the dark, unholy realm of afterhours election sites.

I must have been about 16 that night, though you really needed to be 18 to stay inside when those heavy doors were locked and the counting of the votes commenced. But fuck the law. Being on the inside was where I wanted to be, something SO right.  We moved on, the three of us — 2 young cousins and a legislator — to a tour of the relevant political clubhouses.

I even got to meet a kingmaker (more of a dukemaker) who was later arrested for corruption and eventually killed himself. You can’t get better than that. You could feel the aura of manipulation and tragedy. It stuck to your neck like the sweat of that naked guy who recently brushed against you in the locker room of the gym.

It didn’t frighten me much.

Perhaps it had the allure for me that drugs have for less ambitious teens.

For me, it’s always been people, not substances. Or if it WAS a substance, it was likely to have been a grilled, deli-style hot dog, probably the reason a previous election night — could be after the primary some months earlier — had been so frustrating to me. That night, rather than a trip through the inside for me and mine alone, I was, quite simply, alone.

While handing out literature at the polls, I’d asked, fearing the wrath of Mom, just when and how I’d be getting home, hoping they’d say there’d be a party and I would get a lift home after that. But when my shift ended, they said only that they’d take me home. Which they did.

Though there WAS a party.


While I was…home.

When I whined about it, they claimed I’d wanted it that way, but I had only wanted information, a timetable.


Those things in life I know I’ve missed loom at least as large in my consciousness as the things I’ve done. I can still picture my cousin, hot dog in hand, an ample number of cute girls around him, the TV playing election results in the background. Even though I wasn’t there. Even though my cousin said it wasn’t that great.


With this in mind, since it’s been a disappointing election, I just GOTTA get into this party. The Letitia James one. I rushed back to it. No missed hot dogs for me in 2013.

Pulsations from inside pulsate me, but in place, not toward the entry. I’m goin’ up and down, not to or fro.

Fro is a possibility, though, bro. Thing is, I’m scared, not scared for my life, scared of being embarrassed. Every time I get a certain distance from the door, I can go no further. There are big, black guys in big, black suits outside, meant to be intimidating, I guess, and they intimidated me. They look like the guys who won’t let you (me) into a club because you’re (I’m) not cool enough.

They had guys like that a couple of months ago outside Long Island College Hospital, a hospital the state was trying to close so they could sell the land for condos. The hospital, by court order, was open, but they put those guys there to scare people, so they wouldn’t go in, so they’d feel insufficiently cool to get medical attention. If I were having a heart attack and that was the only hospital I could get to, I would surely die.

And, get this, it was a hospital Leticia James was at the forefront of trying to keep open. Maybe she hired those guys for her party as make-good for putting them out of work when she and de Blasio saved the hospital.

By the way, I know of at least 3 people who saw those guys outside the hospital and thought someone was having a dance party there. (My brain, in its best Belushi “food fight” voice is screaming, “HOSPITAL DANCE PARTY!!!!!!!!”)

God, it feels like this is all happening now, rather than in my memory. Maybe it’s ’cause I’m in the same bar having the same can of beer I drank to bolster myself before returning, yet again, to that elusive party. I figured three dollars was a reasonable price to pay for the necessary confidence. Crap.

I wonder if this is the EXACT same can of beer. Did I leave some over? The phlegmy brew is giving me no confidence in the bar, just as it failed to make go back to that shindig for which I’d been girding. Fortunately, on election night, the hoppy mucous had been accompanied by a NY 1 guy on television, waiting at the Park Slope Armory for de Blasio’s party to kick into gear. That was probably the party to be at anyway. And it was close.

Two major citywide victories in one night, both for Brooklyn pols, with parties near to each other, right in my home borough. What better proof could you get of Brooklyn’s increasing preeminence in the municipal equation? I was proud. And also glad, ’cause it meant I could walk to the de Blasio soiree and not have to pop for a cab.

Problem was, every step closer to the de Blasio party made me feel like a racist. Why should I be intimidated by big, intimidating black guys? Maybe they weren’t even supposed to intimidate me and I just decided they were. But they participated in my indoctrination into the big, black guys at the door intimidate me club.  Every big, black guy who ever worked as an intimidating door guy trained me and everybody else in the world to see them that way. Except maybe these guys never worked that gig. Is it fair for me to tar all big, black door guys with one brush of socially incapacitating fear? Maybe Tish James’ big, black guys weren’t even working the door. Maybe they were just standing there. For hours. With clipboards. Anyway, what are verifiable big, black door guys supposed to do? Not take a job at the door? It’s hard to find a job. Is it their fault they make money off a racist intimidation factor? Why don’t white singers get grief when they perform with only black women behind them? Don’t the colored girls go doo d’doo d’doo do d’doo do?

(When Lou Reed died, I, with purest superiority, decided every news anchor whose only reference was Walk on the Wild Side didn’t really know who they were obiting. But doo d’doo remains perfect shorthand for black backup singers, so I was right to use it, don’t think otherwise. And don’t make the mistake of thinking I don’t know of whom I refer. A guy I used to work next to played the Velvet Underground constantly. If not for him, I might not be pan-Reed conversant, BUT I AM! And anyway, I worked with Reed on a movie. Of course, in movies, working with someone doesn’t mean you get to meet him or are even on the same continent. But I did get to meet or, more accurately, see him once in the wardrobe trailer. I think maybe the wardrobe ladies said he smelled, but that could have been me. What I seem to remember is that they said that about him – or someone – and I wondered what they said about me.)